Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At the Foot of the Cross

"I Found Joy in a BIG God" Part Fourteen

How do you approach God's presence or come to hear His Word? I come with anticipation. I can't say I've always entered His gates with such enthusiasm or His courts with expectation. I remember enduring sermons as a young girl just so I could go out with the youth group following the service. If sitting still for an hour in church was all that was mandatory before enjoying a couple of hours of social fun, I could do that easily. Besides, I could scout out the adorable and eligible, cute guys while the message was being delivered. Oh come on ladies...don't tell me you never did that! If you have teens in your home who are attending church with similar less than perfect spiritual motivation, in hope of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right, be thankful. At least they are coming to church even if their incentive isn't what you desire for them. God promises His Word will not return void. It's amazing the truths that will take up residence in their heart and return unexpected when needed.

As an adult I have come to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Nothing was different this night. Sitting in the back corner, notebook open, pen poised, I was ready. Earlier my heart had been prepared as I had sat before His throne of grace in the sacred surrounding of the Prayer Room. Having just completed a delicious dinner, I was physically filled, but spiritually still thirsting.

The voice delivering the message was sweet, yet the power behind His words strong. Filled with God's anointing, Renee began sharing with us the story of Gideon found in Judges. The title of her message, "Beyond the Shadow of Doubt".

I don't know how many of you live with doubts, but they have plagued my life for years. I have to confess that I doubt almost everything - except my salvation, but that too was in question several years ago.

Marriage, a beautiful home, an adorable little boy, leadership positions at my church, countless blessings, yet inwardly my life was falling apart. Withdrawal, uncertainty, emptiness all characterized my existence. Seeing God alive and active in others, I became suspicious of God's love for me. Why didn't I have an amazing testimony like these ladies? Where were my God stories? I could easily accept that He loved everyone else, but not me. As I retreated more and more into myself, doubts disturbed and destroyed. Truths I'd always embraced at face value came into question. Doubts that God could love me, led to doubts that God had saved me, which transitioned to doubting that there was a God. I was on a spiral down. Numbness. Apathy. Void. Had I truly made a decision to follow Christ, or was I like Oswald Chambers writes, simply sorry for having made foolish mistakes, a reflex action caused by self-disgust? The devotional, “Utmost for His Highest” states that the forgiven person proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously. I wasn’t even slightly opposite. I felt my life being weighed in the balance and found wanting. (Daniel 5:27) I was ‘Counterfeit Joy’.

Time and space do not allow for the telling of that story today. Doubt can take us down roads of depression, but can also be used to lead us into an absolute trust and dependence on God if we invite Him into our confusion. Thankfully God's love did eventually pierce my darkness, however it still left a wake of fear. My fears are vast, wide, high and deep. They encompass every moment of every day. Some are based on fact, others were taught and even more imagined. Worry and anxiety are my heritage.

As Renee was sharing God's message, several things about Gideon's life began to speak into mine:

1. God didn't give up on Gideon even though doubt and fear were prominent attributes in his life. God was saying to me - Joy, I will not give up on you. I'm here for keeps. No matter how long this takes and how fierce the battle rages, I will not leave you or forsake you until victory is won. I see beyond what you are now, to what you can become.

2. God called Gideon to stop focusing on what he didn't have and start trusting in the strength he had available to him. It's so easy to keep our minds fixed on what is lacking - my insecurity; thoughts of never being able to measure-up; comparisons; etc... I even struggle with doubting what I do have. Even receiving compliments can be a challenge. I doubt the other person's sincerity and my ability. Are they just saying that to make me feel good? God was calling me to fix my eyes on Him.

3. I must remember that God is the One empowering me. On my own I am nothing, but with God nothing is impossible.

4. Finally, God was promising me His constant presence. I was reminded again of the verse God gave me months ago, "I will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

As Renee brought her message to a close, the lighting on the platform changed. My eyes were drawn to the wooden cross on the stage. As she shared about times when her doubts loomed larger than life, her shadow grew larger than the cross. However, when she surrendered her fears and anxieties, her silhouette diminished at the foot of a saving cross.

Renee then shared Luke 1:35, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'"

Sitting on a chair in a conference room in North Carolina the presence of the Most High began to overshadow me. Renee began asking questions about our personal doubts and the things that we needed to surrender at the foot of the cross. Cards were available at our tables on which we could prayerfully record what God was speaking to our hearts. Three wooden crosses were set up across the front of the room, and as ladies felt led, we were encouraged to come and lay our burdens at the foot of the cross. This was a personal time of yielding control. Acknowledging weakness. God's presence was so evident as hundreds of women made their way down sacred paths of surrender. I was one who took that journey. My card was full. Much needed to be released and voluntarily abandoned.

In exchange for my obedience, God would give me a precious gift...but that's tomorrow's story. :o)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joy,

You and God working through you, are holding me spell bound.

By the way, you MUST be a journaler. Am I correct?

Love to you,
Yolanda

Anonymous said...

I love the way you summed up Renee's message. That was wonderful. I will be praying for you tomorrow. Please keep me posted.


I did not put on my blog that I also backed into another car in a parking lot!! The damage was not too bad, the other car will need some repairs though!!
Charlene

Sita said...

Joy, sounds like you were recounting my story...blessings..

tiggerdaisy said...

Oh, Joy!!! I'm on the edge of my seat and you left me a cliff hanger! :) There is such beauty found within your transparency. Such true, real beauty.

Until tomorrow,
Rebecca

Paula (SweetPea) said...

Ah, you naughty girl. You are so good at those cliff hangers. haha smiling.
This really struck a chord with me:
"Seeing God alive and active in others, I became suspicious of God's love for me." It's not that I feel suspicious of God's love for me but rather I feel, what am I doing wrong. How do I get that fire and that active spirit? I feel I don't do enough for Him and wonder what or how I could do more.

This piece had much meat of which to chew.

Thanks, Joy, for sharing and for allowing us to gleam truth and encouragement from you stories.

Love,
Paula

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

If ever I need a biographer "for the journey" you're my gal! Seriously, you've chronicled your walk to She Speaks with a beautiful flare, and because I was there, the blessing in reliving this event through your eyes and heart brings me untold joy...Joy. I'm off to my folks for a few days. Just couldn't sit around the house, missing my men. Please pray for their safety and for God's ordaining work to be accomplished in their lives.

peace~elaine

hkudla said...

Hi Joy,
This was so good. It makes me want to be there, but in a way, makes me feel like I was, because I am living it through your eyes. Thank you for being so transparent, and for chronicling this so well.
Because you noted Elaine in one of your earlier posts, I headed to her site for a look-see. I just got done reading her Part 6 on the desert devotional she was doing... i had to leave a comment there, because of something she said, and some things I am happening to work through tonight... just struck a chord. If you get the chance pop over there and see... I just don't think I can manage to re-write it here.
Please continue to pray for me as I know you do.... thank you my dear Joy, for the joy you bring into my life as I read the words God gives to you, so eloquently written.
God bless, and much love,
Heather